Best Films of 1960
Best Films of 1961
Best Films of 1962
Best Films of 1963
Best Films of 1964



Best Films of 1965
Best Films of 1966
Best Films of 1967
Best Films of 1968
Best Films of 1969



Yojimbo
La Jetee
Seppuku
Muriel
Masculin-Feminin



Mouchette
Playtime
Les Biches
Once Upon A Time in the West

BEST FILMS OF 1960
by Mike Lorefice


The Apartment
Billy Wilder

****

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L'Avventura
Michelangelo Antonioni

****

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The Bad Sleep Well
Akira Kurosawa

***

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Breathless
Jean-Luc Godard

***1/2

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Comanche Station
Budd Boetticher

***

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Cruel Story of Youth
Nagisa Oshima

***

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La Dolce Vita
Federico Fellini

***

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Elmer Gantry
Richard Brooks

***

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Eyes Without a Face
Georges Franju

***1/2

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The Gallant Hours
Robert Montgomery

***

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House of Usher
Roger Corman

Making a move toward respectability, Roger Corman convinced his drive-in distributors American International Pictures to give him a whole 15 days (50% more) and $270,000 for what would become the first of eight Edgar Allan Poe adaptations. Along with the work of Hammer Studios and Mario Bava, Corman began popularizing a new genre with this Technicolor CinemaScope gothic horror. Morbid, moody, misty gloom with something of a surrealist bend and dramatic expressive coloring, particularly reds in this case. Corman is far more a director who has seen art movies than an artist in his own right, so the film is something of an uneven collection of influences. Sometimes you feel he knows a scene is cheesy, but lacks the resources to fix it. While far from a masterpiece, House of Usher is first rate low budget genre work, making us feel the desolation and isolation of the Usher house while we actually see very little of it. Corman's production designer Daniel Haller could do good work quickly and inexpensively, and his cinematographer Floyd Crosby was a F.W. Murnau alumni. Though Richard Matheson's expansion is considered faithful to Poe due to keeping his mood, almost all Edgar Allan's poetry is lost and the dynamics are totally different. Poe's narrator (Mark Damon) is sympathetic to sick friend Roderick Usher (Vincent Price) who asked him to the decaying mansion to comfort him. Matheson turns it romantic, making him the fiancÚ of Madeline Usher (Myrna Fahey) come to claim her regardless of what her brother, who turns out to be overprotective, possessive, and incestuous, has to say. Poe crafted a tale of fear and mental illness. Isolation and claustrophobia may still breed insanity, but Corman makes it another of his generational battles with the outdated older generation trying to hold back the reasonable youth. Damon is the typical wooden pretty boy, his "acting" consisting of raising his voice once in a while to punish Roderick, but Price saves many flaws with his self- proclaimed finest role. He's totally convincing as a tortured man who believes the sins of his ancestors have manifest into a sentient house. Tormented by hyperesthesia, hypochondria, and acute anxiety, Price gives a sensitive portrayal - whispering his lines as that's all the volume his poor ears can withstand - that still conveys the man is on the verge of giving in to hysteria. [2/24/07] ***

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Never on Sunday
Jules Dassin

***

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Peeping Tom
Michael Powell

****

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Psycho
Alfred Hitchcock

****

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Purple Noon
Rene Clement

***

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Rocco and His Brothers
Luchino Visconti

***

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Shoot The Piano Player
Francios Truffaut

***

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Spartacus
Stanley Kubrick

***

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The Steamroller and the Violin
Andrei Tarkovsky

***

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A Terrible Beauty (aka Night Fighters)
Tay Garnett

***

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Two Women
Vittorio De Sica

***

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The Virgin Spring
Ingmar Bergman

Max von Sydow forces his only daughter Birgitta Pettersson to journey to church to complete a pointless ceremony, but on the way the budding virgin is raped and killed by outlaw herdsmen. Split into two halves, the tense but whimsical first portion focuses on the two young women showing the playfulness, naivete, and innocence of the spoiled virgin woman-child contrasted with the jealousy of her older, unwanted, pregnant, servant-like foster sister Gunnel Lindblom, who conjures up the pagan curse that theoretically does her in. The darker second half is so effective because of its slow and contemplative nature leading up to von Sydow's rash revenge, which includes the death of the herdsmen's mute kid brother in one of the many scenes that really makes you think about the ways the actions and decisions of adults can negatively impact younger ones. Von Sydow's means of handling the situation is theoretically far more toward the war and death of his former (and Lindblom's current) God Odin and the Old Testament eye for an eye than his current faith in Jesus Christ. Though one of the few Bergman films he didn't also script, it continues his series of works that question God on a moral level. He also explores man's need for God. Everyone feels guilty for what they did do, didn't do, thought, and/or felt, and it destroys their interior in a very similar way though as always the outward effects are different. The classic scene of a kneeling von Sydow filmed from behind asking God's forgiveness is brilliant in depicting man caught between his lofty aspirations and crude instincts. Ultimately everyone wishes they could do the right thing, but they deal with things the only way they know how, whether it's right, wrong or usually somewhere in the undefined gray area. One wonders where the better or correct way to deal with things is coming from. Do we need God to tell us or to forgive us because we can't forgive ourselves? Set in the 1300's, transitional period between the old and new styles of religious mysticism, Virgin Spring ultimately affirms Bergman's faith in Christianity and shows the importance of converting, having faith in God, and making reparations for your sins. The film is notable for being Bergman's first full collaboration with legendary cinematographer Sven Nykvist, whose keen naturalistic eye eases the transition from the expressionist bend of Bergman's early studio work and blends the nonsensical metaphysical elements in so well they don't seem out of place. [10/11/06] ***

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